From the moment a baby is born parents and medical professionals alike are watching that the child meets certain agreed upon milestones in their development.  While there is some acceptable variation, certain general guidelines have been set.  One of the main milestones that is monitored in small children is the development of speech skills.  

As a parent, it may be scary if your child does not meet the expectations put forth in the area of language development.  There are several reasons this could happen, ranging in seriousness and need for outside intervention.  If, as a parent, you have any concerns regarding your child’s speech, it is very beneficial to discuss them with your child’s pediatrician.  Often, you will be referred to an audiologist to test hearing or a speech and language pathologist for further evaluation.  While outside intervention is sometimes needed and very beneficial, it is not at all uncommon that a child will just begin to speak in their own time.

There are many things parents can do at home to encourage speech development in toddlers.   Reading’s importance cannot be overstated in this matter.  Children with speech and language delays may often become frustrated by an inability to adequately communicate their thoughts, needs, and desires with the people in the world around them.  Sometimes they may have difficulty clearly saying or understanding words that are said to them.  By reading to them daily, parents will introduce new words, concepts, and ideas on a regular basis.

Reading to an active toddler is sometimes easier said than done, so here are a few tips to make it a bit less of a challenge.  Because toddlers tend to have a short attention span, it is important to choose books that are interesting to them.  Point out pictures and say the words slowly and clearly as you read along.  Encourage your child to repeat the important words after you if they are able.  Repetitive reading is a good thing to aid in language development.  Although, you may get tired of reading the same book ten times in a row, day after day, this repetition is extremely helpful to the language delayed child.  Books that have rhyming and songs incorporated into them are often popular, and may encourage engagement and participation from a child that is otherwise leery to speak.  As you read, help your child relate items and events in the book to their own lives.  For example you may point at a picture and say, “Look, that littl e girl is wearing a red jacket.  You have a red jacket too.”  It is very beneficial to ask your child questions as you read too.  Such as, “That elephant is eating apples.  Do you like apples?”

A delay in language development, for any reason and any severity, is something that affects the toddler, their family, and any regular caregivers.  Please, contact us with questions you may have about the benefits of reading and what you can do as an entire family to help grow your child’s love of reading and use of language!